Triathlon Tip of the Week – Arm Turnover




If you had the opportunity to watch the Ironman World Championship and you watched the swim portion in detail, you will see that the arm turnover for most athletes in the front are a lot faster than you have likely been taught in the past.

We all fell for the trap of the gliding stoke mentality that if you make a long gliding stroke you not only minimize drag but you will go faster with less effort.  This is something that never made sense to me!

Lets swim slower to swim faster?

Think about that sentence in terms of cycling or running.  If I told you that all you have to do is slow down your legs to ride and cycle faster you would think that I am nuts.  They I would tell you to reduce drag and everything would be ok. Still would think I am nuts.

Well, my thought is that you have to increase your arm turnover rate in order to get faster in the pool.  It takes work and form practice through repetition just like in running and cycling.

First step to increasing your arm speed is performing a swim test such as the one found at swim smooth:

THE CSS (Critical Swim Speed) TEST:

1.Swim and easy 600 to 1000m warmup, including a variety of technique drills and a few short efforts to lift your heart rate up.

2. Perform a 400m time trial from a push.  Count your laps right and accurately time it!

3. Recover for 10-15 minutes including some easy laps.

4. Perform a 200m time trail from a push, again with accurate timing.

5. Easy Cool Down.

To determine your CSS pace is in time per 100m from your results, the easiest way is to use a simple calculator at or:

CSS (m/sec) = (400-200)/(T400-T200) Than convert to  from m/sec into time per 100m: CSS(sec/100m)=100/CSS(m/sec)


Now with all that math in front of you, you have your CSS time per 100m. You can use that pace to find your ideal stroke count by counting your stroke or using a stroke meter which can be found by clicking on the banner below.
swim smooth's amazing new dvd: CATCH MASTERCLASS

You can marry your CSS test result to your stroke rate and gradually increase your stroke rate thus increasing speed over distance.


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